Faculty Focus

Abbe R. Gluck

Healthy Start

Professor Abbe Gluck is applying her expertise in legislation and federalism to advance the field of health care law

By Mary Johnson

Fall 2010

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One month after she joined the Columbia Law School faculty, Professor Abbe R. Gluck moderated a discussion that invited government experts and academics to analyze reform options for America’s health care system. The event took place just one day after a storm carpeted Morningside Heights with nearly a foot of snow—still, it attracted roughly 300 spectators.

And it wasn’t just Law School students in attendance: Gluck took a poll midway through the event and discovered that both Columbia’s medical school and the Mailman School of Public Health were ably represented. “That illustrated the real interest here and the wonderful opportunity we have to strengthen our health-related connections across the University,” says Gluck, who will teach a seminar on current issues in health law next semester.

Gluck has long been intrigued by the legal aspects of health care provision. During her first year at Yale Law School, she wrote an article centered on the law of death and burial, which helped earn her an Olin Fellowship. Two years later, her interest intensified when she was confronted with her mother’s battle with terminal cancer—a tragic episode that offered her firsthand experience in dealing with doctors and patients, as well as in navigating complicated end-of-life issues. “I started to realize that I was really drawn to these issues,” Gluck recalls.

Beyond the personal connection, the intersection of health and law also appeals to Gluck because the field falls squarely within her other areas of expertise: legislation and federalism. Gluck honed her knowledge of the legislative process through years of government service. Prior to joining the Law School, she clerked for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59 and 2nd Circuit Court Judge Ralph K. Winter. She then completed stints as special counsel to the New Jersey attorney general under Governor Jon Corzine, and as chief of staff and counsel to the
deputy mayor for health and human services under New York City Mayor
Michael Bloomberg.

At the Law School, Gluck’s overlapping areas of expertise have evolved into intense academic pursuits. In June, she spoke about federalism and health reform at the 2010 Health Law Professors Conference in Texas. And later this year, she will co-host the Law, Health and Society Colloquium, a monthly interdisciplinary gathering at the Law School.

Her work in the field of legislation has been equally prolific. She has written a path-breaking article on state court statutory interpretation, titled The States as Laboratories of Statutory Interpretation, which recently appeared in The Yale Law Journal. In the spring, Gluck is planning a legislation roundtable at the Law School, and her next article, Intersystemic Statutory Interpretation, which examines the interaction of state and federal courts in statutory interpretation, was recently selected as an entrant for the Annual Junior Faculty Federal Courts Workshop. In addition, Gluck will join Yale Law School Professor William Eskridge Jr. in presenting a colloquium on legislation and statutory interpretation theory at Columbia Law School in the spring.

Gluck’s enthusiasm for her new endeavors has proven contagious, and students eager for research opportunities or career advice have already begun approaching her en masse. “The teaching part of this job is extremely important to me,” says Gluck. “I’ve been so influenced by the teachers I’ve had in my life, and I hope to return that gift to my new students at Columbia.”

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